Women’s team drops two games to conference foes
THE SANTA CLARA
April 16, 2015
Now past midway point in the season, the Santa Clara women’s water polo team has been struggling as of late, losing four of their last five games heading into the weekend.
“We have been in a rut the past couple of weeks,” said Head Coach Keith Wilbur. “The games this weekend showed that we still need to work our way out of it.”
The team traveled to southern California this past weekend to continue their Golden Coast Conference play versus California Baptist University and San Diego State University.
“Conference games are very important,” said goalkeeper Francesca Puccinelli. “We wanted to really focus on playing our game and force Cal Baptist and SDSU to adjust to our style of play.”
The road trip began in Riverside on Friday versus Baptist in an important game that had seeding implications for both sides. With the conference schedule winding to a close, both teams vyed for fifth place in the GCC standings.
Santa Clara came out slow versus the Lancers and found itself losing 3-1 at the end of the first period.
Regardless, the Broncos continued to fight offensively and attempted several shots in the first half. Lancer goalie Meghan Rowland racked up five saves by halftime alone, leaving the score at 6-2 at the break.
Following the intermission, the momentum shifted slightly as Santa Clara’s aggressive defense was able to slow down the Cal Baptist attack.
“We were able to shut down Cal Baptist’s 2-meter players,” Puccinelli said. “They had some strong outside shooters.”
As a result, the Broncos received four ejections in the quarter, a sign of the frustration that ensued after the first half.
Santa Clara entered the fourth quarter trailing 7-2, but the deficit only widened. Baptist racked up five more goals in the final period, not allowing any attempt at a comeback and sealing the Bronco loss at 12-4.
“Offensively, we need to be more aggressive and confident in our shots,” Wilbur said. “We discussed this as a team after our game against Cal Baptist, and we showed significant improvement offensively in our game against San Diego State.”
The next day, Santa Clara traveled down to San Diego State to face the undisputed No. 1 team in the GCC.
The Aztecs showed their dominance early, jumping to a 4-1 advantage at the end of the first quarter, then extending it to an 8-3 lead at halftime.
“Defense has always been a key for us and it was not great in either game,” Wilbur said. “The effort was there, but our awareness and communication need to get better.”
After three halves marred by low offensive efficiency, the Bronco attack finally clicked, scoring six goals in the second half.
“Our outside shooters were able to find the back of the net, and our 2-meter players took a lot of strong, quick shots,” Puccinelli said. “We were also able to draw lots of kick-outs out of both 2-meters and from drives.”
Santa Clara still lost the game, 15-9.
After the two losses, the Broncos find themselves in sixth place in the GCC with a 13-12 overall record (1-3 in conference). Moving forward, the team still has a couple of big conference games that could boost them in the standings to earn a higher seed in the GCC tournament.
“Our main focus will be on our defense and making sure we are able to recognize different situations quickly,” Wilbur said. “(We need to) have good communication between the players and commit to our system of play.”
The team’s next game will be at home tomorrow versus Loyola Marymount University.
The Lions are ranked No. 17 in the GCC.
Senior Day will also be hosted this Saturday when the team faces Azusa Pacific University, in tandem with a breast cancer fundraiser to honor a teammate whose mother was recently diagnosed with the disease.
Tomorrow’s game is set to start at the Sullivan Aquatic Center at 3:30 p.m.
Contact Nick Redfield at nredfield @scu.edu or call (408) 554-4852.